Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - BY CLAIRE McNEILLY

A MUR­DER vic­tim’s griev­ing widow was sub­jected to fur­ther heartache af­ter po­lice re­turned items which were still cov­ered in her dead hus­band’s blood, the Belfast Tele­graph can re­veal.

The weapon used to blud­geon Matthew God­dard to death was also brought to his wife Mau­reen’s Belfast home — even though she had made it clear she never wanted to see it again.

The Po­lice Om­buds­man, how­ever, found no fault with the of­fi­cers in­volved — a rul­ing which has shocked East Belfast MP Gavin Robin­son, who de­scribed their ac­tions as “com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate”.

A vic­tims’ group also sup­ported Mrs God­dard’s claims that she wasn’t treated with the nec­es­sary dig­nity and re­spect fol­low­ing the bru­tal slay­ing of her hus­band in his home by broth­ers Wil­liam and James Turner in 2014.

The Zim­babwe-born mother of two is now launch­ing an ap­peal against the Om­buds­man’s re­port, which found no grounds for dis­ci­plinary ac­tion in all nine of her com­plaints against the PSNI’s han­dling of her case.

Mrs God­dard (46) said she “couldn’t be­lieve it” when a blood-spat­tered tele­vi­sion, which had been taken away for foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion fol­low­ing the mur­der, was brought back to her home last Septem­ber with­out be­ing cleaned.

“I was shocked at their in­sen­si­tiv­ity. I just broke down,” she said. “I felt phys­i­cally sick. I wasn’t pre­pared for that. They didn’t warn me in ad­vance.”

She added: “To make things worse, I was of­fered pieces of the elec­tric gui­tar that had been used to kill Matt.

“They’d been brought to the house but stayed in the po­lice car.

“It took them years to re­turn Matt’s be­long­ings and then this hap­pens.

“It made me re­live the hor­ror of what hap­pened to him. I can’t get those im­ages out of my mind.”

A spokesman for the Po­lice Om­buds­man said a de­tailed in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Mrs God­dard’s com­plaint had been con­ducted.

“Po­lice and other wit­nesses were in­ter­viewed, and an ex­am­i­na­tion of po­lice doc­u­men­ta­tion, emails and in­for­ma­tion from other agen­cies formed a sig­nif­i­cant part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said.

“We un­der­stand and ac­knowl­edge the dis­tress ex­pe­ri­enced by Mrs God­dard. How­ever, hav­ing care­fully con­sid­ered the ev­i­dence, we de­ter­mined that it would not be ap­pro­pri­ate to rec­om­mend dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against any in­di­vid­ual of­fi­cer.

“If Mrs God­dard wishes to con­tact us, we will of course con­sider any con­cerns she might have.”

Wil­liam and James Turner were each sen­tenced to a min­i­mum of 17 years in jail for what the judge de­scribed as a “sus­tained, piti­less and hor­rif­i­cally sav­age at­tack” on Mr God­dard at his ter­raced house in Chob­ham Street on De­cem­ber 23, 2014.

They punched, kicked and bat­tered their vic­tim with an elec­tric gui­tar be­fore stamp­ing on his head — be­cause of re­marks al­legedly made by Mr God­dard about James Turner.

The 41-year-old’s body was dis­cov­ered wrapped in a cur­tain at the bot­tom of the stairs, on Christ­mas Eve. Mrs God­dard says she is still try­ing to come to terms with James Turner hav­ing his prison sen­tence re­duced by two years by the Court of Ap­peal last month.

And Mr Robin­son, DUP MP for the area, said: “Aside from the tragedy of this case, there has been a cat­a­logue of er­rors and fail­ures.

“I have a thick file in my of­fice where many or­gan­i­sa­tions have ac­cepted they failed Mau­reen, but I am bit­terly dis­ap­pointed that the Po­lice Om­buds­man, when they take th­ese com­plaints in the to­tal­ity, have not rec­om­mended a Po­lice Ser­vice apolo- gy.” He added: “The Om­buds­man has failed Mrs God­dard en­tirely.

“Re­gard­less of the ex­pla­na­tion given, no one in their right mind would con­sider it ap­pro­pri­ate to re­turn a blood-stained tele­vi­sion to a be­reaved widow, never mind the mur­der weapon it­self.

“One can only imag­ine the fur­ther heartache and sor­row that caused her.”

One of Mrs God­dard’s com­plaints states that a PSNI of­fi­cer “brought Matt’s TV in and plonked it on the sofa. He opened up the TV and it was cov­ered in blood stains… He had the gui­tar in the car and of­fered to give it to her af­ter she had specif­i­cally re­quested not to be given it back.”

In re­sponse, the Po­lice Om­buds­man’s re­port said it had con­ducted en­quiries with the Ex­hibits Of­fi­cer re­spon­si­ble for the re­turn of the items and found that “she was aware that the tele­vi­sion was blood­stained, how­ever, she was on leave the day it was re­moved from the prop­erty store along with other ex­hibits.”

It con­tin­ued: “The of­fi­cer who at­tempted to re­turn the items would ap­pear to have acted in good faith, given the in­struc­tion to re­turn the items.

“When he dis­cov­ered the blood stains on the tele­vi­sion he acted ac­cord­ingly in seek­ing ad­vice be­fore hand­ing over any items.”

It con­cluded: “There is in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to iden­tify any po­lice mis­con­duct against any po­lice of­fi­cer.”

An­other com­plaint by Mrs God­dard, that she ex­pe­ri­enced fur­ther dis­tress when of­fered the mur­der weapon, was also dis­missed af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion found: “The of­fi­cer stated that he did not bring the gui­tar ex­hibits into the house.”

The re­port also re­ferred to a com­ment made by a wit­ness who was with Mrs God­dard when the items were be­ing re­turned: “She said ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing the of­fi­cer, was shocked when the pack­ag­ing was opened and the tele­vi­sion was found to be cov­ered in blood.”

But the Om­buds­man ruled there was no po­lice mis­con­duct and “in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to sug­gest that the po­lice of­fi­cer con­cerned acted in an un­pro­fes­sional man­ner”.

Geral­dine Hanna, CEO of Vic­tim Sup­port NI, which has pro­vided back­ing for Mrs God­dard since the mur­der, said it has “sup­ported her right to make any com­plaints she feels are nec­es­sary”, adding: “We be­lieve that is­sues around com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the man­age­ment of ex­pec­ta­tions caused ad­di­tional up­set for Mau­reen.

“One of the ba­sic premises of the Vic­tim Char­ter is that vic­tims should be treated with dig­nity and re­spect... un­for­tu­nately, this is some­thing we feel can still be lack­ing in com­mu­ni­ca­tions sent to vic­tims, and cer­tainly was a stan­dard which Mau­reen felt miss­ing from her ex­pe­ri­ence.”

With re­gard to the re­turn­ing of items con­nected with the mur­der and other is­sues, Mrs Hanna said: “Vic­tims un­der­stand that mis­takes can be made. Where this hap­pens it is im­por­tant that we ac­knowl­edge the mis­take, apol­o­gise for it and take ap­pro­pri­ate learn­ing.

“Whilst some mis­takes may not qual­ify as mis­con­duct, they can cause ad­di­tional dis­tress to al­ready trau­ma­tised vic­tims... sen­si­tiv­ity in the lan­guage used can make a huge dif­fer­ence to vic­tims feel­ing that their com­plaints have been heard, ac­knowl­edged and taken se­ri­ously.

“It is es­sen­tial for all of us to re­mem­ber that we are deal­ing with in­di­vid­u­als, and to tai­lor our re­sponses ac­cord­ingly... there is still a huge way to go be­fore we achieve our goal of an emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent, trauma-in­formed, and tai­lored re­sponse to vic­tims’ needs.”

No one in their right mind would con­sider it ap­pro­pri­ate to re­turn a blood-stained tele­vi­sion


Mau­reen God­dard with a pic­ture of her and hus­band Matthew and (top right) on their wed­ding day

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